We can all agree that nothing beats a good barbecue in the summer. Whether you’re talking BBQ ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken, sausage, or just the fixings, there’s a little something for every taste on this trip. These are a few of the best BBQ joints from Kansas City to Memphis, Texas to the Carolinas.
Carolina-style BBQ is best known for its trademark tangy flavor. Don’t be surprised if the sauce you're served is yellow, or maybe even clear in color; Carolina BBQ sauces are vinegar or mustard-based, often with ketchup or hot pepper mixed in. This BBQ style doesn’t need to use a lot of (or any) spice rubs on the meat, which is most often smoked pulled or chopped pork. North Carolina’s favorite way to enjoy it all? Piled high on a messy, mouth-watering sandwich topped with coleslaw!
Parker’s Barbecue has been a staple in eastern North Carolina for more than 40 years and serves up 10,000 pounds of barbecue each week, so you know it’s bound to be good. Parker's slow roasts whole hogs and chickens, which they infuse with their signature tangy sauce. Their sides include Southern favorites like Brunswick stew, hush puppies, corn sticks, and coleslaw, (Don't plan on this to cool off your palate; it has just as much of a kick as the sauce). Wash it all down with a big glass of sweet tea!
Of course The Pit serves up chopped and pulled pork, which have been pit cooked overnight, but here you can also find Carolina-style ribs (more fat, more bone, more flavor, as they say), chicken (fried and smoked), turkey, and brisket. Sides include the classics: fried okra, baked beans, collard greens, and black-eyed peas, as well as more modern dishes such as quinoa salad, Brussels sprouts, and sweet-potato fries. And, you can finish it all off with one of their delectable desserts, or an adult beverage... if you still have room!
Stamey's has an old-school atmosphere, cheap prices, and huge portions of amazing BBQ, all of which have kept Greensboro locals coming back. They're best known for their authentic pit-cooked chopped pork, spicy vinegar sauce, and outstanding hush puppies. And, whatever you do, save room for their famous peach cobbler: It really is to die for.
Feel free to pig out in Memphis, because their barbecue is all about the pork. Their rubs have less sugar and more spice, and their special sauce is thinner and has more of a kick to it than Kansas City’s (more on that later). These sauces make the make the perfect dip for those juicy ribs, and are delicious drizzled on pulled pork or chicken sandwiches. A more offbeat side you’ll find on many Memphis barbecue-joint menus is BBQ spaghetti... which is exactly what it sounds like.
Cozy Corner is the very definition of a “no-frills” BBQ joint. They offer all of the staples (ribs, wings, pork, beef, sandwiches, and Cornish hens) along with a simple lineup of sides: corn, beans, and slaw. There’s only one dessert here, too—banana pudding. Cozy Corner executes everything so perfectly that you won’t miss the frills at all!
Jim Neely, the mastermind behind Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que, spent two and a half years perfecting his sauce, and you definitely can taste the time and effort. Try it on sausage, beef, pork, bologna, ribs, hot dogs, and more; you can get it on just about every meat imaginable here. You even can get your smoked and sauced meats on a salad! A slice of pecan pie is the perfect way to end the feast.
Where’s the beef? Texas BBQ focuses mainly on tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket, massive ribs (this is Texas, after all), and homemade smoked sausage. The sauces vary wildly, and can contain anything from beer to cumin to coffee. Some places don’t even use sauce and just rely on flavorful rubs, many of which contain ample amounts of chili powder.
The atmosphere of The Salt Lick is just as perfect as its barbecue. The live music, rustic setting, and imposing indoor pit loaded with meat all add to the experience as you enjoy your meal. Combo plates are a great way to sample as much as you can, or try the triple chop, which has brisket, sausage, and ribs all mixed together into one unbelievable plate of deliciousness. Don’t expect many “healthy” options here, either: The “vegetable” menu only includes slaw, beans, and potato salad.
Franklin’s Barbecue is Austin’s most revered BBQ joint. It’s only open for lunch because they sell out of food before mid-afternoon, so lines form early. The menu here is pretty straightforward, but goodness, is their brisket amazing! You can order meat by the pound or on a sandwich, with sides of potatoes, pinto beans, or slaw. Grab a mini pie for the road: Bourbon banana, pecan, key lime, and lemon chess keep it authentically Southern. Once again, you’re going to have to get in line first thing in the morning, but the wait will absolutely be worth it. Pack some beers and enjoy it!
Chopped beef, ribs, brisket, pork, and sausage are the main attractions at Tyler’s Barbeque in Amarillo. The dry rub here is delicious, so try a bite of meat before you douse it in their amazing sauce. The brisket especially is a standout, and if you’re around on a Thursday, try their green chile and grilled onion mac and cheese.
KC’s barbecue is sweet, sweet, sweet. Their signature rich, tomatoey sauce is flavored with molasses or brown sugar (maybe even both), and the rubs also contain—you guessed it—more sugar, which caramelizes on the meat in an addictively sweet, smoky, spicy, and savory way. Ribs and chicken are cooked low and slow, making the meat juicy and tender, and usually are slathered with sauce.
Arthur Bryant's is as classic as you can get when it comes to KC-style BBQ. Pork, ham, turkey, chicken, and sausage are available, but the ribs and burnt ends are the stuff of legend. You can't go wrong with the "Original" sauce, but their "Rich and Spicy" and "Sweet Heat" flavors are just as good. As for the atmosphere, the cafeteria-style restaurant is decorated with pictures of the many celebs and presidents who have eaten here.
You usually don’t expect to walk into a BBQ joint and order a cup of chili, but you might find yourself doing just that at Woodyard BBQ: Their burnt-ends chili is perfectly smoky and spicy. They also offer ribs, hot wings, pulled pork, turkey, ham, sausage, and brisket. Order a plate or a specialty sandwich to make the most of the meat, and wash down the deliciousness with a cold beer—they have a great selection!
Barbecue is just one of those foods that’s worth road-tripping for. Spicy or smoky, ribs or sandwiches, beef or pork or chicken: Whatever your preference, there’s a BBQ joint out there that will excite even the most particular of palates.
You’re ready for your road trip. Make sure your car is, too. Stop by your neighborhood Valvoline Instant Oil Change for a drive-thru oil change in about 15 minutes. You can stay in your car while we do the work. Plus, you’ll get a free 18-point vehicle inspection to help you get ready for the road.